I feel bad for “Devil May Cry.” It had a good idea, and it was making good games with it. Then “God of War” came along. Everything that “Devil May Cry” did, “God of War” did better. DMC gets credit for originality, but when the mustard hits the ceiling, that just won’t cut the bacon. “Devil May Cry” is a very good game, but it’s hard not to see it as a poor, sexually depraved man’s “God of War.”
Originally intended as the next evolution of “Resident Evil,” The “Devil May Cry” series follows Dante, the wisecrackin’ demon-hunter son of the legendary demon hero Sparda. He’s got a really big sword and a really big gun and he surrounds himself with near-naked women, one of whom is capable of dispatching demons with a reverse cowgirl. In “Devil May Cry 4”, however, you don’t play as Dante, you play as Nero. Don’t be confused — Nero may act, talk, dress and fight almost identically to Dante, but if you look closely, you’ll notice that his mid-length, smooth white hair is parted on the left, not the right.
Nero is a young knight in the order of the guys wearing white hoods. He doesn’t wear a white hood, because he’s a maverick. He’s about to leave in the middle of the leader’s sermon when Dante, out of nowhere, comes in and aces the leader, just like that. Nero is dispatched after Dante, and as luck would have it, things are more complicated than they seem.
The gameplay is pretty much the same as the rest of the series, and it’s still good fun. Nero’s got a gun and sword just like Dante, except he’s also got a glowing blue arm and a motorcycle engine in his sword. You hack your way through hordes of demons accruing style points for especially flashy combos, pursuing the ultimate accolade of “smoking sick style (SSS).” Nero’s blue arm can pull and throw enemies, which is well implemented for the most part, but occasionally feels like an easy way to keep the enemies from ever fighting back.
The enemies range from boring to excellent, which is appropriate considering that they’re trying to both provide huge mobs of hackables as well as the occasional challenge. The angels — flying silver knights with big shields — are especially fun to slice to hell from the side. The stock enemy is a prancing, colorful, humanoid sack stuffed with demonosity, which lacks the same shambling horror of “Devil May Cry 1’s” marionettes.
The bosses are a slightly different story — they’re either a simplistic slog to wear down a health bar that’s twice as long as it needs to be, or so frustrating that you throw the controller at the wall and try and kill your roommate Hank. There were a couple battles where I got within two or three sword strokes from victory, only to die and then not be able to get that far for another two hours. Another boss was a toad demon with glowing, naked women hanging from long tentacles on his head and rubbing each other.
It’s easy to forget, because so many Japanese games are this weird, but “Devil May Cry” is an intensely weird game. There’s the overt sexuality and phallic symbols. There’s the slow motion shot up a woman’s skirt. There’s the constant, irritating quips from Dante and Nero. There’s the brief musical number in the opera house. There’s the brawny scientist that transforms into a bug/chicken/knight. There’s the “Lucifer” weapon you acquire from the fire demon, about which Dante says: “First I whip it out, then I thrust it with great force … it penetrates from every angle … and in the end everyone is satisfied.” This is not a game for anyone who wants a semblance of sense.
The graphics are workmanlike. There’s nothing wrong with them, and they don’t detract from the game. Dante’s model is especially badass. But once again, “God of War” did it better — and on previous generation hardware. I wanted more scope, more grandeur, especially with the huge castles and temples that they had to work with. Instead, I didn’t see any reason why I couldn’t have just played this with a few less polygons and rougher textures on the PS2.
“Devil May Cry 4” is a good fight and a good time. It’s got a classic style, and if you’re looking for a game where you get to swing a huge sword around, this is definitely it. This is, however, probably the last time Capcom will get to make this game. They got three on the previous generation, and they got a freebie for updating it to the next-gen, but they’ve got to bring something more exciting to the table next time. A new character is not exciting, especially when the new character is the exact same as the old one. Capcom has got to do for “Devil May Cry” what they did for “Resident Evil,” or this series will fizzle out.